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INTERVIEW: Black Honey’s Izzy Phillips

The Verse’s Francesca Thornton interviews Black Honey’s Izzy Phillips. 

On September 21st, sitting outside a pub in the North Laine. The sun shining as I sip on my cider bought for me by Izzy Phillips herself. We discuss Black Honey’s new debut album on its release day, Brighton and it’s music scene, and what it’s like being a female musician.

Lead singer Izzy Phillips of Black Honey sits opposite me. Adorned with her pink glitter boots and dress. Also wearing her staple white-blonde wig, topped off by a sparkly tiara because, after all, it is her “f***ing birthday”. Phillips style is certainly prominent. Displayed through not only her clothing but the band’s music, artistic style and the discussions she has. She explains how:

“We’re inspired by a lot of cinema and I think that kinda comes off as Americana as that’s a Hollywood based thing. But on the other hand of that, I love Bond films and trying to be like British cinema.”

This likeness between Black Honey’s band aesthetic and Bond films can be easily seen. Especially when watching their music videos. The music video for Midnight certainly captures that essence of a bad-ass Bond babe and her villainous tendencies.

The ‘dark’ and ‘creepy’ concepts of Black Honey are a recurring trope in the band’s work. Phillips discusses her icons, drawing upon how her biggest icon is ‘Kurt Cobain’. Explaining how she read his journal at the mere age of thirteen. She encapsulated the rebellious attitude right from the beginning moment of her teen years. Opting to delve into grunge and read about a suicidal heroin addict. Phillips describes it as the “worst possible thing I could’ve read as a young teen”. Yet, she expresses how growing up she knew she was slightly ‘weird’ and ‘different’ compared to other kids. She decided to wholeheartedly embrace this personality, eventually translating this energy into her music.

Reflecting upon Brighton itself, Phillips chats about her late teen and early adult years and how this city has developed her personality and musical influences.

“This is where bands are grown, born and bred. To me this is home. I am happy here. It’s a comforting thing. It takes a really weird latch onto people’s hearts because it is so vibrant and creative and exciting. You can really get lost in this town. People lose themselves completely and it can be quite f***ed up. It’s a pretty high drug addiction and alcoholism rate here, and as long as you can keep your shit together it can do amazing things for people, and it’s really enriching.”

The intertwined personalities of Brighton have certainly played a huge influence on Izzy Phillips and her songwriting. Transferring her feelings about friendships and struggles into Black Honey’s new released self-titled debut album. It’s a true pleasure listening to Phillips. Her excitement more than evident as she explains that having it released on her birthday is truly a dream achievement. Delving into the album itself, Phillips picks out the song Just Calling as holding the lyrics that speak to her most:

“I love that song as it’s a very intimate portrait of a complicated relationship and having a string of f***ing ridiculous relationships with people, and just inevitably getting hurt at the end of those romantic endeavours. Just Calling was one of those weird, magical sweet spots with someone where you see in all of the chaos, s**t, carnage and heartbreak around you where you find that perfect little romantic window where no one can touch, and it’s a bit f***ed up and you’re maybe going to leave each other, but that sweet spot just before it falls apart is what I find really interesting and exciting.”

There’s a bittersweet sentiment to Izzy Phillips’ words. Eliciting the idea that it’s okay to explore things that might scare you or eventually fall apart or go wrong. Because there’s all the chances that you may just happen upon a sweet spot that you’ll end up treasuring for a long time, be it a relationship, a friendship or a creative endevour.

“Words fail us so badly”, Phillips adds. “I mean the f***ing sky is called blue yet how many colours do you see? If you’re a songwriter you can give that feeling of what the sky feels like to you. Communication is so much deeper in music.”

Discussing further the music industry, I touch upon a photo posted to Twitter over the summer that shows Izzy, Ellie of Wolf Alice and Natashja of Fickle Friends all together. Talking about how it feels being close with fellow female artists in the music industry.

[ https://twitter.com/ficklefriends/status/1018782733521379328 ]

“I can count on one hand how many people I know that have gone through what I’ve gone through, have toured with 12 men on their own for four months and been like ‘someone with a vagina, my god!’, ya know? And they get it! Those are the friends that you can go to and be like actually, I’m really fed up at the moment. There’s an element of deeper understanding for what each other has to go through with those friendships.”

With Black Honey about to embark upon an international tour, Phillips expresses her excitement to take their newly released album on the road and perform it to people after three years of collating songs together.

“I just can’t wait to hear people sing it back to me, that’s the dream isn’t it. I think that you can wake up and be in the sh***est mood ever, feeling really down about yourself as an artist and have low self-esteem and then get on stage and watch someone’s face glowing, singing your song back to you – it literally takes away all your troubles.”

At the album launch later that evening, it was a pleasure to stand back and watch the crowds enjoy Black Honey. Izzy Phillips introduces their song Baby. Describing how it’s not a breakup song about being broken up with, but rather being the person who does the breaking up. The stripped back version makes you think more about the lyrics, especially when performed in such a small intimate venue. Along with this, the prominence of the backing vocals shines out far more than before. Allowing the audience to how much more depth they bring to the song. Her red lipstick is smothered across the golden microphone that she holds, giving smouldering looks into the crowd.

As the song comes to an end, Izzy Phillips goes up to the crowd at the front embraces them into a cuddle, explaining “you guys are just so adorable, you make my dream come true”. This small intimate performance with a small crowd was more than enough to make Izzy Phillips, along with the rest of her bandmates, feel the impact that their music has on people. Putting into perspective the ‘glowing’ look on people’s faces that she had described to myself in the interview earlier that afternoon. As an audience member, it made me feel proud for Black Honey and excited for their future endeavours, ever so deserving of the appreciation they have and will receive.

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